In part one of this post, I imparted all of my wisdom on close-up portrait photography. Hopefully the fact that all of my wisdom can be distilled down to two simple tips doesn’t reflect poorly on the quality of that wisdom. Regardless, to add to my grass-roots tips in part one, here I will pile on even more grass-roots photography tips in part two!
Part two is all about whole-body portraits. In real photography there are all kinds of portraits. Some include only the face, some the head and shoulders, some the upper body, and some the whole person. I like to jump right from the face close-up to the whole body portrait because I am either interested in capturing the uniqueness of a person’s expression or a person in their environment. If you’re attempting the latter, here’s how it’s done.
Frame the whole person head to toe. Cutting off a person’s feet can make it look like they’re pasted into the photo, and with all those Photoshop wizards out there it’s important for your pictures to look real. And leave a little room at the top and bottom.
Here is what I mean. Beautiful subject, beautiful background, nice perspective and composition, and yet it looks like an amateur vacation photo. You might say “Ian, that is an amateur vacation photo!” to which I might reply “Yes but you only know that because I got lazy with my composition.” If you include your subject head-to toe they seem like a person in a setting rather than a person standing in front of a setting. It allows your pictures to tell the story of your adventures rather than serve as proof of the sights you’ve seen.
Those are three of my favourite examples from my own picture file of portraits capturing people interacting with their environment. I only have one other suggestion for whole-body portraits and that is to remember the rule of thirds. Divide your frame into nine quadrants with two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Put the horizon on one of the horizontal lines and your subject on one of the vertical lines. It’s the oldes trick in the book and it’s not always the best way to capture a subject but if you follow this simple rule, your pictures of people will constantly look more composed.
And just like with close-up portraits, make sure what you’re shooting is an environment or an activity worth taking a picture of. And make it something real and honest. People know when you’re being fake. They may not respond negatively to your cheesy pose, the media is full of artificial beauty, sets, hair-and-makeup, etc., but they certainly will respond positively to a picture capturing an inspirational, heartfelt, or intense moment in a balanced composition.
That’s my two amateur cents. Follow these three rules and your whole-body portraits will turn out great. And, perhaps most importantly, take lots and lots and lots of pictures. At least one is bound look okay.